How to Spend 1 Day in Zürich, Switzerland

I never intended to spend 1 day in Zurich. I was supposed to be there for 45 minutes. 

But alas, the case of delayed Spanish flights and shockingly punctual Swiss flights led me to a free overnight stay in the city of Zurich. Honestly, I was excited what with the free hotel and the unexpected time to explore somewhere new. A case of food poisoning, however, did put a damper on things. Still, I enjoyed my time in Zurich, and think that 1 day in Zurich was just enough time to get a taste of the town.

Whether you’re heading to the Swiss Alps, the lakes, or the charming green valleys, don’t miss Switzerland’s largest city.

zurich limmat river white buildings with orange roofs

Is 1 day in Zürich enough time?

In my personal opinion, 1 day in Zürich is plenty of time. Most travelers will use it as a jumping-off point to either visit some of the Swiss mountain towns do some hiking or do some skiing in the winter. 

Zürich is not a big city and honestly, it’s pretty expensive, so limiting time there isn’t a bad thing. What’s more, the city center is very accessible on foot without the need for public transportation to see all of the highlights. So this makes the process of visiting in just one day a lot faster.

When’s the best time to visit Zürich?

June through August is the busiest time of year in Zurich, but also the warmest and wettest. My favorite time to visit pretty much anywhere is the shoulder season. For Zurich, that’s March-May and September-November. 

If you’re traveling beyond Zurich to see more of Switzerland, consider what you hope to do. If you want to hike, shoulder season is great, but come when there’s snow on the ground if you want to ski.

zurich downtown buildings with swiss flags

Getting around Zürich

Getting around Zurich is super easy. Thanks to the small size of the city. You won’t need to use public transportation except on your way to and from the airport or the main train station and both of these are not far outside the city. 

If you decide to fit in lots of activities, you can consider the Zurich Card which gives you unlimited free access to public transport. More on that later. 

What to Do During 1 Day in Zurich, Switzerland

Discover the Heart of the Old Town

The historic old town is very cute with lots of cobblestone streets, traditional architecture, and colorful buildings, plus churches and more. Limmat River is the main river in the city. And there’s lots to see along this route. Lots of bridges cross it so you can easily hop from one side to the other. Exploring shops and cafes and getting lost in the maze of little streets.

Best of all, quite a few of the narrow streets are pedestrian-only so it’s the perfect place to explore on foot. This activity alone could happily take up half of a day. 

Visit the Swiss National Museum

If you’re a history buff and you’re looking to get a great overview of the country as a whole, the Swiss National Museum is where you need to go. There are a number of temporary exhibits that change out often as well as permanent ones like “History of Switzerland,” “Archaeology in Switzerland,” and “Simply Zurich.” The entrance tickets cost CHF 10.

See the Views from Lindenhof Hill

If you want one of the best views of this beautiful city, take a short walk up to the Lindenhof hill that overlooks the river. It’s an easy, sloping path to the top of the hill and you’ll have great views of the river and some of Zürich’s famous churches. 

view of fraumunster church with limmat river zurich and buildings

Fraumünster Church

The Fraumünster Church is a Protestant church founded in the year 853 with five beautiful stained glass windows created by famous artist Marc Chagall. The entrance fee is CHF 5 for adults which includes access to the crypt museum and an audio guide available in 8 languages.

If you’re there on a Sunday, you could attend a service in German at 10 am. Additionally, if you happen to be there when a concert is going on, you can experience some music inside the beautiful church. The concert schedule can be found here (website in German.)

Grossmünster Church

On the other side of the River Limmat, you’ll find the Grossmünster Church, one of Zurich’s most popular main attractions. It’s a Protestant church just like the Fraumünster, but this one has two iconic twin towers that set it apart. According to legend, the two towers signify the graves of St. Felix and St. Regula that lie below.

Admission is also CHF 5 which includes an audio guide and entrance to the Karlsturm, one of the towers. I wish I had had time to climb to the top and see the beautiful view of Lake Zurich from above. 

I actually visited the Grossmünster during a walking tour of Zurich. The lovely church also features stained glass windows that rival that of the Fraumünster. Make sure you go inside this one. 

Take a Boat Ride on Lake Zurich or the Limmat River

If relaxing is more your jam, or if you want to sit down after a long walk through the city consider taking a boat ride. It’s a great way to get a little further outside of the city and away from the crowds while enjoying some peaceful nature. Click here to discover the boat rides in Zurich. The rides vary in length of time so you can choose the one that best fits your time schedule.

lake zurich with boardwalk and swans at dusk

Tour the Zurich Opera House

The Opera House is one of Zurich’s main cultural hubs and a hit with both music and architecture fans. They offer 60-minute backstage walking tours where you can get up close to the behind-the-scenes work that goes into their productions. The cost of the tour is CHF 10 and it is given in English.

Visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate

Most know that Switzerland is one of the best places in the world to sample gourmet chocolate. I am a huge Lindt fan and I’m absolutely heartbroken that I didn’t know this existed while I was in Zurich. I would have gone there in a heartbeat. 

Lindt is some of the highest quality chocolate in the world and visiting its main location would be an absolute treat (pun intended!) This epic chocolate museum and store offer chocolate tours and even chocolate classes. Oh and did I mention, they have an epic chocolate fountain? Don’t miss the Lindt Home of Chocolate on your trip to Zurich.

Sample Even More Chocolate

Chocoholics unite! If you don’t have time to make it down to the Lindt Home of Chocolate, never fear. There are plenty of other places where you can sample world-class Swiss chocolate right in the heart of Zurich. Here are a few you can try: Max Chocolatier, Vanini Swiss Chocolate, and Raffael’s 1989.

Try Some Swiss Foods

There are a few famous Swiss foods that you should not miss out on while in Switzerland and Zurich. Specifically, cheese fondue is absolutely the most iconic thing you should try. Just like it sounds, various foods and breads are dipped in lava-like cheese. 

You can also try Käsespätzle which is the Swiss-German version of mac n’ cheese. Spätzle are like small German gnocchi which are boiled and then smothered in cheese and topped with fried onions. This is one heavy meal, so extra caution is advised for all my lactose-intolerant friends. 

Last but not least, you should sample a raclette. Admittedly, this is not my favorite dish, but it’s iconic and beloved throughout Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. And, bonus, it is made mostly out of, you guessed it, more cheese. Raclette will often involve a large grill that is put in the middle of a table where various foods such as meats, potatoes, and vegetables are cooked. You’ll then put the cooked food into a miniature pan, top it with raclette cheese, and put it underneath the hot griddle to melt the cheese on top. 

zurich from the river limmat with colorful buildings

Do Some Very Expensive Shopping

Since Zurich is a financial center in Europe. It does stand to reason that there would be wealth abundant. This reflects in Zurich’s vibe – a cosmopolitan city with lots of luxury brands, flashy banks, boutique shops, and fancy cars rolling by.

I was in Zurich for such a short time but I still managed to pay 8 USD to add a magnet to my beloved collection. I left feeling like I spent a bit more money than was necessary.

Still, if it fits your budget, there are lots of high-end shopping opportunities. A great place for splashing the cash is Bahnhofstrasse where you’ll find stores such as Louis Vuitton, MontBlanc, Cartier, and Prada while dodging oncoming streetcars. If you’re reading this blog, this might not be your jam but it’s good to know that this famous street exists.

If You’re Visiting in December, Go to a Christmas Market

The winter months are an amazing time of year to visit Switzerland, especially if you’re a skier. 

But December is especially unique thanks to beautiful Christmas markets. I didn’t visit in December but if I had you would better believe I would be there to sample the food and drink at the Christmas markets. They’re one of my favorite things to do in the winter in the German-speaking world and I am so certain that it would be no different in Zurich. Based on my research, these are the top two Christmas markets not to miss in Zurich. 

A Sample Zürich Day Itinerary

My visit was obviously unplanned so I didn’t have much time to research what to do in Zürich. If I went again, this is the itinerary I’d follow.


Grab some quick breakfast at a bakery, then spend the morning walking around the old town either with a guided tour or independently. When visiting a new city for the first time, one of my favorite things to do is to take a walking tour to get my bearings (this is one of my favorite free travel tips!) I did this during my unexpected trip to Zürich and it was a great introduction to the city.

If you don’t want to go with a guide, a self-guided audio tour is a great alternative. No matter which method you choose, make your way to the Fraumünster and Grossmünster churches and the Lindenhof Hill along the way.

Next, walk along the Bahnhofstrasse for a glimpse of Zurich’s glamorous side and great people-watching.


Come the middle of the day, it’s time to get lunch. Try out the Raclette Factory to taste raclette or taste some traditional Swiss fare at Swiss Chuchi, both right in the old town.

For the perfect after-lunch pick-me-up, indulge in some Swiss chocolate at one of the places mentioned previously!

With your hunger at bay, it’s time for a tour. Take a tour of either the Swiss National Museum, the Zurich Opera House, or the Lindt Home of Chocolate. (You better believe my choice will be the chocolate tour!) This should take a couple of hours.

grossmunster church zurich limmat river

Afternoon and Evening

After that, it’s time for a sunset cruise on either the river or the lake to relax and enjoy the view.

After an eventful day, it’s time to grab dinner. Here are a few places that would make a great dinner spot where you can try some traditional Swiss foods. Get your cheesy Swiss fondue and sausages at Le Dézaley, experience an old-timey historic feel at Zeughauskeller, or enjoy a stunning interior at Zum Kropf.

Interested in an evening libation? Try out the Old Crow, BarMünster, or the Bar am Wasser (that last one’s right next to the river.)

Is the Zurich Card Worth It?

A Zurich Card costs CHF 27 for an adult for 24 hours. You can buy it online here and it has its own complimentary app to help you discover the city.

Included in the card are public transportation throughout the city, free or reduced admission to tons of museums (including the Lindt Home of Chocolate, the Swiss National Museum, and the Opera House), free entrance to the Fraumünster and Grossmünster churches, and various store and restaurant discounts. The Zurich Card also includes a boat ride (the Mini Lake Cruise, Short Lake Cruise, and Limmat River Cruise to be exact). Book lake cruises here and river cruises here.

Overall, if you plan to see and do a lot in Zurich, it won’t take long before this card pays for itself. If you’re more content to just wander on foot and see attractions from the outside, give the Zurich Card a pass.

Although I only had 1 day in Zurich, I still got a great feel for the city and its ritzy vibe. I hope this guide helps you to maximize your time there!

August 6, 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *